Brave Lancaster trio in military medal honour

War historian Shaun Corkerry looks at the lives of three Military Medal winners from Lancaster and what they achieved

Thursday, 18th November 2021, 3:45 pm
Lance Corporal Harry Higson of the 107th Regiment 'Dishing out the spuds' King’s Own Museum -Accession Number KO2775/04.
Lance Corporal Harry Higson of the 107th Regiment 'Dishing out the spuds' King’s Own Museum -Accession Number KO2775/04.

There are still plenty of Lancaster men (either born and bred, or those who made Lancaster their home) who won bravery awards to document, and after a further delve into the archives, here are another three.

On Friday, March 22, 1946, the Guardian announced the award of the Military Medal to Sergeant Walter Taylor, whose wife Mary Ann (maiden name Angus) lived at 79 Sibsey Street, Lancaster.

Sergeant Taylor was a member of the Army Catering Corps, but he was serving on attachment to 107th Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps, The King’s Own.

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107th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps (King’s Own) The tank is made ready to move off. King’s Own Museum Accession Number: KO2319/47

This unit had been converted to tanks from the Infantry of the 5 th King’s Own in 1941 and wore a black beret with the King’s Own Badge.

(There are some splendid photos of the unit on the King’s Own Museum website as well as in “Picture Post” of August 12 1944).

The article went further and explained that Sergeant Taylor was a Regular Army soldier, born in Blackburn, who had served 18 years with the King’s Own, seven years of which were overseas.

The Citation reads: “Corporal Taylor (as he then was) has served on attachment to 107 King’s Own since the Regiment landed in Normandy in July 1944. Throughout the whole campaign, he has shown marked ability in organising his Squadron cooking arrangements, often under very difficult conditions, and has never hesitated to come forward himself with the ration team to ensure that the fighting troops were satisfied.

M4 tank and Indian Troops take Meiktila, 1945.

As an example of this, on the night of October 27, 1944… Cpl Taylor accompanied the supply column up to his squadron which was harboured in and around a farm building… and within range of mortars and artillery.

At dawn on October 28, the squadron came under heavy fire from mortar and self-propelled guns which hit the petrol lorry and two half-tracked vehicles, all of which were burnt out.

The tanks, one of which was hit, were hurriedly withdrawn to cover, leaving Cpl Taylor and his party on their own.

He at once took charge, collected the party together and although he had never driven a half-track vehicle before, he turned the remaining one around in a very confined space and under mortar fire. By this time the farm building was on fire, and learning there was a wounded infantryman inside, without hesitation Cpl Taylor left the vehicle, entered the burning building, and rescued the wounded man…carrying him back under shell fire, he then drove his party to safety”.

An infantryman shaving in his slit trench, 12 April 1945.

As the award was for long and distinguished service over a period the award was not immediate (for a single act) like the others we will see later, but a “periodical” one.

As a result, the award appeared in the London Gazette in January 1946. It was also one of only eight MM’s awarded in World War Two to the Army Catering Corps.

In December 1946 the Guardian reported the first Christmas since their wedding in 1939 that Walter and Mary spent together in Sibsey Street.

I have no further information regarding Sergeant Taylor.

An M9A1 grenade- here is one being fired by an American soldier.

Friday June 15 945 brought Guardian readers a brief announcement of the award of the Military Medal to Private Richard Howse of Skerton, for services in Burma.

Richard Howse was born in Lancaster in December 1907, and in 1911 was shown as living in a house on St Mary’s Parade.

His father Charles Henry was an oilcloth trimmer born in Baluchistan - there may be a story there! Charles must have been a veteran as in the 1920’s voters registers, the family are living at “Silverdale” cottage, Westfield Memorial Village.

Richard married Elizabeth Helme in 1932, and by 1939 the family lived at 50 Alexandra Road Lancaster. Richard is not present during the 1939 census and may already have been in the Army. the Guardian also printed a letter from his daughter, Doreen, in March 1941, where she said her daddy was home on leave.

In February 1945, Richard was serving in the 2 nd Battalion of the Border Regiment, then part of the 20 th Indian Division, in the reconquest of Burma.

His MM citation also notes Richard was a transfer from the Royal Artillery.

It reads: “At Satpangon on February 3 1945 when number 1 Platoon of A company was pinned down by intense machine-gun fire on the outskirts of the village, Private Howse went forward (in full view of the enemy)… repeatedly to fire M9A1 launcher grenades at the enemy machine gun. By his efforts, he wiped out the gun position entirely, and the platoon was able to gain entry into the village.

Having expended his bombs, Howse then took up a Bren gun and continued to cover his platoon by fire across open ground in the village.

By his gallant conduct, the platoon was able to gain a foothold in the village and his courage and disregard for his own safety was a fine example to all those who saw him”.

The recommendation was originally for a Gallantry Certificate, but it was soon upgraded to an MM and was an immediate award appearing in the London Gazette on 24 May 1945.

It was one of 60 awards to the Border Regiment in World War Two.

In case no one recognises the M9A1 grenades- here is one pictured being fired by an American soldier. The grenade itself slips over the muzzle of a normal rifle, and a special blank cartridge is used to propel the grenade. In British service, they were later known as Number 85 grenades.I believe Richard died in Lancaster in 1990.

Finally, for this issue, we return to June 1945, the Guardian reporting that a letter received by Mrs Park of 31 Cavendish Street Lancaster indicated that her husband,

Lance Corporal J E Park, had been awarded an MM.

He was also stated to have been recovering from wounds received. In March 1945, John Edward Park was serving in the 9 th Battalion of the Border

Regiment, part of the 17 th Indian Division (the Black Cats) in the reconquest of Burma campaign.

The lengthy citation describes how Corporal Park’s section was holding part of a defensive perimeter south of Meiktila.

On the night of 11 and 12 March, around 60 Japanese launched a series of attacks, Corporal Park taking over his section when his section commander was wounded.

The third attack of the night was launched…

The citation goes on: “in fact, several Japanese had penetrated the wire in Corporal Park’s sector. He got out of his slit trench and went after those inside the wire, killing two with his Tommy gun.

A third Japanese attempted to bayonet him.

His Tommy gun now being empty, this NCO fought the Japanese soldier unarmed, forced away his rifle and bayonetted the late owner.

He was wounded in the leg… he fought his way to the MMG (Browning medium machine gun) post, which he saw was in difficulties… weakened by the loss of blood… he crawled back to his company commander and gave him such full details that an immediate and successful counter-attack was made to secure the post…”

Born in June 1917, Corporal Park had worked on Fox’s Farm, Halton, in 1939 as a farm labourer. He was married in 1939 in Lancaster.

Born in Ulverston, he returned after the war and died there in 1972.

As ever, if you know anything about the men listed here, or have an MM (or another gallantry medal) winner in the family, please contact myself, Shaun Corkerry through the Lancaster Guardian via [email protected]